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Tuesday, February 21, 2017


What does 18719 mean to you?

It's not a zip code.

It's not the number of strikeouts Nolan Ryan got in his career. (Not even close. Come on, guys.)  It's less than the total numbers of batters he faced, though. That's 22,575.

It's not how much money I have in the bank. Don't I wish, though. Think of all the cards I could buy.

According to Baseball Almanac, it's the total number of players to ever see action in the major leagues. That would include the senior circuit, dating back to 1876, the AL, all the defunct leagues from the 19th century, and the Federal League of 1914-15.

David Aardsma on July 28, 2015.jpg
By Keith Allison on Flickr - Originally posted to Flickr as "David Aardsma", CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

The list starts at David Aardsma. He got his start in 2004 with the Giants, jumping around a bit from team to team over the last decade-plus. He's also pitched in the majors for the Cubs, White Sox, Red Sox, Mariners, Yankees, Mets, and Braves. He was a part of the Marlins organization for about a month in 2013, too. He last played an MLB game in 2015.
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports Image Source
The bottom of the list is Tony Zych. Another pitcher, Zych debuted in 2015 with the Mariners and is still active.

And between the two of them are another 18,717 players.

What does this mean to me? Well, an idea I've been bumping around in my head has been a truly "complete" set. After totaling up the numbers, I've decided to start yet another collection.

Yeah, that's right. 18,719 and counting. It looks like about 250 players debut each year these days, compared to about half as many for most of MLB's history. That's good news for me - modern players are more likely to have cards somewhere - Bowman, Topps, Panini.

I already know there will probably be at least 1000 of those 19,000 with no cards at all. That number could end up being much higher. That's okay. From the Awards project I know lots of players who have hit for the cycle or pitched no-hitters don't have any cardboard, with many others only appearing on old tobacco cards.

I dub it the Archive Collection.

Sometime before Opening Day, I hope to have assembled and formatted a full list. That's not such a hard thing to do thanks to Baseball Almanac. And I'll get a decent start with the singles I have right now - cards I've been accumulating from various purchases and Kenny's zapping a couple months ago. And like my Live Game project, this collection will basically remain on hold until I go back home and get through all of my extra cards to fill in with what I already have.

So, while this is a new collection for me to chase, it won't really get moving for quite some time.


  1. Replies
    1. Me too... until I actually try to do it. Then I'm sure I'll have second thoughts from time to time.

  2. I think it is a great idea...and I bet you could get a lot of your cards from "croudsourcing." I have several boxes of cards just sitting there looking at me with puppy-dog eyes waiting to be loved....the ones you need would look a lot better in your collection.

    1. I'm sure a lot of people are foaming at the mouth with anticipation of clearing out their garages. But I have a ton of cards at home in storage that could be purposed for this too. This is why I haven't started this sooner, and why I'm not asking for cards or anything yet.

  3. Very scientific sounding. I wonder if it has been done already or how close anyone has gotten. We already have examples of team builders in our blognation.

    1. I've never heard of anyone doing this yet, though I have seen the team collectors. There will end up being some rules and caveats for this collection given the fact that several players might have only one ultra-rare 19th century card, or none at all. I still gotta figure that out.

  4. Good luck. I've been doing it for the NBA and NASCAR and it's not easy to find cards that exist for some people, not even taking into account people who never got cards. Baseball being as well supported as it is on Cardboard should make it more achievable, I hope to see progress reports eventually!

    1. I've discovered at least 150 players already who either don't have cards or only appeared in really obscure sets, from putting together my Awards collection. I know that reprint sets will help with older players, as will the Conlon Collection sets of the 1990s.

      I'm impressed with your progress on your NBA (and NASCAR) collection. How long have you actively been working on the players?

  5. Dude. The next time you're in the Bay Area, I'll let you dig through the 5,000ct boxes I have sitting in my classroom storage room. I'm sure you'll be able to cross at least a thousand or so off of your list.

    1. I gotta get through my extras first! I have tens of thousands of extras waiting to be sifted through too. But I may still take you up on that offer.